A few Christmases ago I took the opportunity to conduct a small psychological experiment because I had far too much free time. I had been reading online articles on the positive effects of altruism that week, and far be it from me to believe anything I read on the Internet without fact-checking it in some way (and, seriously – you should, too).
I decided I was going to test the hypothesis that more generous people are happier people by spending all my money on friends and family. Mind you, I didn’t have a job at the time and had about €100 to my name collected from various Christmas cards – meaning that I was technically giving a few people presents worth at least 50% less than the presents they had given me, but at the time I understood the gift economy even less than I do now, so stop applying your college-educated logic to my life, you nerd. I was trying to do a good deed.
I headed into town ready, willing and able to spoil my loved ones with knick-knackery they most likely threw in a drawer and forgot about on St Stephen’s Day. I threw caution to the wind: dolla-dolla bills were flying around; I was making it rain all over the shopping centre. By the time I was heading home, it was 4PM and already beginning to get dark, but the cold didn’t bother me and I was actually feeling good. Maybe my experiment would have worked, if not for what came next.
Speaking of making it rain, if there is an intelligent designer somewhere in the universe, then they must have seen me looking a bit too pleased with myself before I set off on the thirty-minute walk home, because someone flipped a switch and the heavens opened up. It started spitting rain and I, being thrifty, had collected that day’s purchases exclusively in paper bags. About halfway home, the bags all fell asunder and I was forced to park myself by the side of the road and try to come to any sort of solution, of which there was pretty much none. I just had to bundle everything up in my arms and continue onwards.
Bearing in mind that I had been on my feet all afternoon in very cheap shoes, every step I took from that moment was like walking across a bed of knives (alright, yes, I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect, but I just really want to hammer home the pathetic fallacy inherent in this situation). By the time I collapsed through my front door, my arms were about to fall off; I was soaked; my feet were destroyed; I was a broken woman. All for the sake of science.
Look, I love Christmas. I love the fairy lights and the woolly jumpers and the Disney films and the hot chocolate – though I’m personally more of a mocha gal, you need that bit of a kick – but the holiday itself can often be a bit of an anticlimax, can’t it? This is a wonderful time of year; the most wonderful time of the year, some say, but sometimes things won’t go to plan. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye out for your loved ones; don’t fret if you eat too many chocolates; and if you have to talk politics at the dinner table – Norway knighted a penguin in 2008. That’s a nice little mood-lightener for you. You’ve made it this far, my friends, and from me and all of us Byliners, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Also, if you were wondering about the results of my psychological study – I’d rate my overall levels of life satisfaction at a good 85% after I took a nap, and if that’s not a success, I don’t know what is.